Kristaps Porzingis will benefit from an improved Knicks roster, but the blossoming star needs more time to develop and perfect his game.
Casual gawkers and hardcore stat nerds alike could agree that the 20-year-old Latvian was awesome last season. By the end of his rookie campaign, the nonstop hype over this rail thin, 7' 3" big man (who didn’t turn 21 until August) was fully validated: Porzingis (14.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.9 BPG) survived the absolutely brutal one-two coaching duo of Derek Fisher and Kurt Rambis to claim Rookie of the Year runner-up and All-Rookie honors. Although his efficiency tailed off a bit down the stretch, 2016’s No. 4 pick enjoyed strong advanced stats across the board thanks to his developed offensive arsenal and mesmerizing size and wingspan, which helped him rebound well for his age and rank in the top 10 league-wide in blocked shots. On paper, Porzingis’s profile—a stretch-five who is comfortable scoring from the block to the arc and who can protect the rim—is as enticing as it gets. His short-term development path will be fascinating to watch, as the Knicks made the curious decision to surround Porzingis and All-Star Carmelo Anthony with a roster full of high-usage and injury-plagued veterans rather than pursuing a youth movement. Porzingis needed more help, to be sure, but he also needs an environment where he can play through his mistakes (dumb fouls, turnovers), work on his correctable weaknesses (spot-up shooting, finishing through traffic around the basket, playmaking for others), and master his strengths (natural scoring ability, shot creation). Given the large body of work he established in logging more than 2,000 minutes as a rookie, anything short of a big step forward from Porzingis in Year 2 would reflect poorly on Knicks president Phil Jackson. (Last year: Not ranked)
+ Made 81 three-pointers and attempted 243, setting all-time NBA records for players listed at 7' 3" or taller
+ Rookie stats (14 pts/7 reb/2 blk, 17.7 PER) similar to Brook Lopez's (13 pts/8 reb/2 blk, 17.7 PER)
– Shot just 34.5% and was a team-worst minus-54 in 84 minutes worth of clutch situations
– His 0.77 assist-to-turnover ratio as a rookie was comparable to less skilled big men like Rudy Gobert (.80) and Alex Len (0.67)